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Cleaning Up The Gulf: FDA Says Chemicals Used Don’t Hurt Seafood Safety

Submitted by on August 6, 2010 – 7:36 pmOne Comment
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According to The New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration is claiming the chemical dispersants used to break up the extensive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from Deepwater Horizon doesn’t appear to threaten the safety of seafood in those waters. Ah, what?

In a letter sent in response to questions from Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of seafood said that chemicals used to break up the slicks are not as dangerous to human health as the oil itself.

FDA scientists do not believe that the chemicals accumulate significantly in the tissue of fish and shellfish, and so, even if the fish absorb the chemicals through gills or other ways, the fish do not retain them, Jeanne Ireland, FDA’s assistant commissioner for legislation, wrote to Markey. That means they do not pass up the food chain to humans and are not considered a public health concern, according to the FDA.

BP sprayed 1.8 million gallons of the dispersant Corexit on the surface of the gulf and, for the first time, at the wellhead a mile underwater. Dispersants were last used July 19, four days after BP temporarily capped its leaking well.

Are you effing kidding me? The ingredients of the dispersants were once considered classified with only select employees at the Environmental Protection Agency privy to the recipe. Oh, and they were forbidden from divulging what’s in the secret sauce. Thankfully, the Obama administration pressured Nalco Holding, Corexit’s manufacturer, into sharing the details with the EPA, which eventually made them public.

See if you can pronounce the ingredients in this harmless brew.

The ingredients include propelyne glycol, a chemical permitted by FDA as a food additive and used in medicines, cosmetics and toothpaste; 2-butoxyethanol, which is found in cleaners, liquid soaps and cosmetics and quickly degrades in the environment; and a proprietary form of sulfonic acid salt, which is “moderately” toxic to freshwater fish and invertebrates but which the manufacturer says degrades quickly. In addition, Corexit contains volatile organic solvents that are made from crude oil and are not considered by the FDA to pose a public health concern because they do not accumulate significantly in the flesh of fish, according to Ireland.

Think you can make this in your kitchen? Ireland says the FDA will not be monitoring fish or shellfish for Corexit since it is not considered a health risk. Mmm, let me get this straight: Billions of gallons of oil have damaged a major source of seafood. Chemicals made in a lab are being used to clean up the mess. But since these chemicals don’t really accumulate in the fish flesh, it’s not considered a health risk.

Instead, the agency has examined gulf seafood for signs of contamination with oil, which agency scientists say poses a clear health risk to anyone who eats the affected fish.

Sensory experts working for the FDA and NOAA smelled samples of gulf fish to make sure there was no odor from oil or chemicals. If the samples passed that test, they were subjected to laboratory analysis to detect polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which come from oil and some of which can cause cancer and other health effects in humans.

In consultation with the FDA, NOAA has slowly reopened sections of gulf waters to fishing. Currently, about 24 percent of federal waters along the gulf are closed to fishing, down from a peak of about 37 percent in early June.

But Markey said questions remain about the impact of the chemicals over time. “We know almost nothing about the long-term effects of either oil or dispersants on the aquatic food chain,” he said.

All I can say is WOW.

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